The Carpenters Union – Training Carpenters for the 21st Century

May 28, 2014

Kevin M. Craffey bears a name cloaked in honor among the master carpenters of New England. The son and the grandson of former presidents of the carpenters union, he carries on the family tradition in grand fashion as the head of Craffey & Co., Builders Inc., a nationwide general contracting firm. When he started out as a carpenter, Kevin Craffey followed the same path his forebears had, joining the carpenters union’s apprenticeship program to earn his journeyman’s certificate.

The carpenters union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC), has played an important role in the construction trades since its founding in the 1880s. It was a leader in the national fights for an eight-hour day and a minimum wage, as well as on-the-job safety rules. One of the most important contributions the union has made to the industry throughout its many decades of existence, though, is its training program.

The union knows that skilled workmanship is critical to the employer’s success. In union shops, it is the union that is responsible for certifying each worker’s qualifications, and those certifications are awarded only after a member has completed a rigorous training program that often includes years of hands-on practical experience acquired under the direct supervision of more experienced craftsmen. Kevin Craffey, for example, completed a four-year apprenticeship program with the UBC to earn his journeyman’s certification.

When the union certifies to the contractor that a worker is a journeyman carpenter, millwright, or cabinetmaker, it’s a guarantee that the carpenter meets a set of objective standards. That guarantee relieves the contractor of having to go through a time-consuming and costly process of testing job applicants to determine their skill levels. In addition, construction sites are inherently dangerous places, and UBC training always includes safety training appropriate not only to a construction site, but also to the specific skill set being taught.

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